I ’ m a straight white male living in the conservative heartland of America who likes reading about the Civil War and drinking cheap white wine ( sometimes with ice cubes in the glass).
Crucially, when Sarah Waters sits down to write her novels, I am likely not the intended audience for which she spins her yarns.
Having enjoyed The Paying Guests, I circled back to Waters ’ first novel, Tipping the Velvet.
Set in the 1890s, Tipping the Velvet is narrated in the first-person by Nancy “ Nan ” Astley, a young gir born and raised in Whitstable, Kent, where she works in her family ’ s oyster restaurant.
( Waters gets points for many things.
When Nan opens her story, she has just begun to fall in love – from afar – with Kitty Butler, a masher who sings popular tunes while dressed in men ’ s clothing at a nearby theater.
Soon enough, like every plucky, Victorian-era protagonist, Nan leaves home to follow Kitty to the big city.
he most fundamental part of thi story is conflict, and Waters, who is a deliberative writer, carefully setting the stage and piling on details, keeps the road smooth for a shor time.
door was solid, and ad a key in it… Tipping the Velvet is crammed with descriptions like his, from dance halls and back alleys to swank mansions and late-19th century gay bars.
I don ’ t think to spoil all the surprises, but I can tel that at some point, Waters turns her keen eye for imagery to a strap-on dildo. ( Since I know you are wondering: There is sex within these pages.
Towar the nd, Waters also gets a little preachy.
Tipping the Velvet is kind to those “ toms ” who boldly and openly live their lives, while pitying characters – such as Kitty – who want to make their sexuality a secret.
Numerou times, it eads me to Sarah Waters.
Reading Tipping the Velvet, with its new spin on old motifs, is like wandering a familiar city and finding a brand new part of town.